Connecting family members across time through asynchronous audio stories

Date created: 
Domestic Computing
Family Communication
Audio Communication Systems
Asynchronous Systems

This dissertation studies the exploration of asynchronous audio technologies and the design, creation, and evaluation of a system created for connecting family members in different time zones. The related literature on domestic technology for families in different time zones is mainly focused on synchronous usage of different mediums for connecting family members or using video for asynchronous communication. In this doctoral work, my goal was to explore and gain insights on design factors which are important in designing systems for connecting family members across time and over distance through shared audio-based media. This dissertation consists of two studies that I conducted during my doctoral work which is presented in a cumulative format. For my doctoral research, I first conducted a qualitative study which explored the usage of a successful asynchronous audio technology called Podcasts through semi-structured interviews. Results pointed to the characteristics that made podcasts suitable for supporting people’s ability to be alone yet still feel like they were connected to others. Second, I designed and built an asynchronous media sharing web application called Mimo that allowed family members to capture and share moments with each other using audio narratives as a way to connect together. I conducted a study of Mimo and found value of connecting family members in a one-to-one, private fashion and how personalization was necessary in such system. Third, I conducted an iterative design process for a system called FamilyStories that contained three different computational artifacts which allowed family members to share activities and experiences over distance in different time zones. The three technology probes connected family members through sharing asynchronous audio messages with different playback features specific to each of the devices. I evaluated the usage of FamilyStories with a five-week field deployment with four participants. The methods used includes semi-structured interviews, diaries, and data logs for data collection. Results showed the value of slow, flexible, and non-suggestive interfaces for asynchronous audio communication. Overall, my work illustrates the importance of delayed communication; ephemerality being helpful in expressing emotions; the specialness of dedicated in-home devices; and, how time delayed messages can ‘synchronize’ time zones in asynchronous audio communication. This work holds value in exploring design features that have potential to be beneficial for family communication across different time zones.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Carman Neustaedter
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.